Musings + Essays

Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 106: The One on Can Vs. Should.

By: Jen Shoop

My Latest Snag: Mini’s Little People Dollhouse.

Welp, Mr. Magpie and I were ecstatic over the birthday upgrade in mini’s toddler table and chair situation (I mean, I want a Kartell ghost chair) but mini has fallen fast and hard for her Little People dollhouse and I can’t recommend it enough to fellow parents-to-two-year-olds. It’s perfectly age-appropriate — it does make sounds and songs (FYI — you’ve been warned) but you can switch the power on/off when need be. She loves making the toilet flush and turning on the light downstairs and there’s this one song that she dances to ALL THE TIME. But mainly, she loves talking about “making dinner” and “going upstairs” and telling her Little People “come on! come! dinner!” I love listening in on her little rambling monologues as she moves her people around the house, a little mirroring of the activities and conversations that shape her own life.

P.S. Another great buy for this age!

You’re Sooooo Popular: Les Polka Dot Flats.

The most popular items on the blog this week:

+The Lee Radziwill tote. (DIE.) So appropriate given her recent passing — I’ve been thinking a lot about her and the legacy of some of the words she had for us while here.

+Major statement dress, on sale. Get the look for less with this!

+The $5 puffy sticker set that kept mini busy for hours.

+A seriously pretty dress for a spring/summer affair. One of you wrote to describe this as “modern Jane Austen vibes.” Spot on!

+A flattering everyday dress that comes in great colors.

+Chic hoops!

+One of my favorite shirts to pair with white skinnies — oversized, in a great stripe, and nursing friendly! Also, on sale.

+A really fun read with a seriously problematic ending. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone but UGH. Email me if you read this and felt similarly weirded out by the conclusion.

+People RAVE about these hair ties. Have yet to try them myself…

#Turbothot: Can Vs. Should.

On Ash Wednesday, the priest delivered an interesting sermon that has been on my mind ever since: “This Lent, don’t worry if you fall off track or make a mistake with your Lenten resolution. We need to pray the way we can, not the way we should.”

(For context for those outside the faith, Catholics commit to some form of self-sacrifice over the 40-day Lenten period, many of us “giving up” indulgences we love. I’ve had friends and loved ones forgo coffee, wine, snacks between meals, desserts, soda, TV, manicures, etc. for Lent.)

I was surprised and moved by the gentleness and latitude he was affording given the soberness of Ash Wednesday and the rigidity I normally associate — potentially unfairly — with the priests at Church. I left in a state of tranquility. I found myself pondering other areas of my life where I tend towards the shoulds, where I hold myself to impossible standards and set outrageously high expectations. And then, in an uncanny echoing, just two hours later, while at a “toileting independence” class at mini’s future pre-school (she starts her twos program there in the fall), the instructor had this to say:

“I’m not a huge fan of rewards during toilet training because it’s never going to be a quickly-learned skill, and it sets toddlers up for frustration and failure. Can you imagine if your boss said, ‘Look. I know you can’t do this thing right out of the gate, but I’m still going to offer you a $10K bonus if you figure out how to do it on the first try.'”

Whether or not you agree with her take on rewards, the friction between can vs. should stood out to me in high relief. The entire day seemed to be circling around a theme of expectation-setting and I found myself thinking, as I left the class: I need to be the mom I can be, not the mom I should be.

I hedge a bit when I read those words. It’s not a bad thing that I push myself to be better and do better by reflecting, often painstakingly, on what I could have done differently as a wife, a mother, a friend, a writer, a daughter, a sister. But there’s a threshold somewhere between can and should — between aptitude and aspiration — that I need to define a little more carefully, or, at a minimum, that I need to acknowledge and accept. This is the mom I am right now. Maybe one day I’ll figure out how to [xyz], but this is where I am right now.

I feel this way in particular as I grapple with the onset of the twos. Everything is “no!” right now. Just getting mini into a stroller can require Dalai-Lama-like zen and strength of mind. There have been afternoons of nearly incessant whining, bottle-throwing, screaming fits, toy-hurling. I occasionally find myself rounding the corner from our living area into our bedroom just to gather myself for a minute, fighting back tears, wondering whether I’ve done something wrong, chastising myself for not setting a clearer boundary around something or intercepting a tantrum before it even got started, browbeating over the fact that I gave her my phone — yet again — so that she could look at pictures. (She loves to scroll through our shared family albums. This isn’t necessarily bad but then I begin to worry about how often I give in to her requests and whether scrolling through pictures is a slippery slope towards too much screen time and UGH.) I stand there in the cool of our quiet bedroom, take a deep breath, remember that she is two and that I am the mom, and — now — tell myself: “Be the mom you can be, not some mythical mom version of yourself you’ve conjured from God knows where. It’s enough.”

What do you think, Magpies? How do you walk the line between aptitude and aspiration — the cans vs. the shoulds?

#Shopaholic: The Discounted Patagonia Coat.

+Mini’s winter coat just went on sale. Contemplating buying one a size up for next winter so I can score it while it’s 30% off! (This cute fleece vest is also on sale for older girls!)

+A high-end take on the tie-dye trend.

+How stylish are these personalizable dog bowls/dog treat canisters?!

+Love these tortoise hair clips!

+This tissue box cover is uber chic.

+More chic pearl hair clips at a great price.

+Monogrammed jon jons FTW.

+A dead ringer for Zimmermann, but under $120!

+These slides have a chic high-end designer vibe to them — sort of a mix between pairs of scene from Hermes and The Row. I like them in the saddle brown leather…but that hot pink color is MAJOR for this season!

+A seriously chic Ganni dress on serious sale.

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13 thoughts on “Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 106: The One on Can Vs. Should.

  1. Jen,
    Have you seen Emerson Frye’s India collection? The caftans are less colorful than SZ Blockprint, but they’re so beautiful! Thought of you instantly.

      1. OOOOOO!!! You know I love a good mommy-and-me moment 🙂 Thanks for the tip! LOVE them — and the blouses, too!!! xx

  2. Thanks for sharing the tidbit from the sermon — that is such a helpful message for Lent. Let God meet you where you are! From one Catholic to another, I suggest that one way to think about the conundrum you pose is in terms of forgiveness and grace. Let’s forgive ourselves for falling short, and seek the grace to be better. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat!

    Second the comments on Janet Lansbury — her framework has been really helpful. It gave me a vocabulary for communicating with a small person who has big feelings. I recommend combing the archives of her podcast “Unruffled” to see if she has touched on an issue you are facing.

    1. Thank you for all of these notes! Just spent some of mini’s naptime reading through some Lansbury podcast transcripts. Super interesting points I would not have thought of! Thanks 🙂


  3. Oh gosh, I’m right there with you re: the baby tantrums. And the picture thing!! Mine also loves scrolling through pictures and videos of herself. It’s hard, because when we’re traveling I’m much more likely to give in,
    (see most recently: what are you doing thinking an almost 2yo will be quiet during a tennis match, here, watch some videos on mute!). But then at home when she demands the phone and has a meltdown because I want her to, I don’t know, play with the 5 million toys she has…. sometimes it would be so much easier to give in! I try to understand it from her point of view (the only difference really is context, and she doesn’t understand the difference between vacation and being home when the people are the same), but it is hard! (And we have a LOT of travel the next month or so). I try to reason with her and sometimes distraction works and sometimes negotiation (ie, you get to look at 10 pictures, which actually usually works). It’s hard! I have heard good things about Janet Lansbury and keep meaning to check her out, as this is not a problem that’s going to go away anytime soon.

    Love those Margaux slides. Just wish the pink were in leather – I find it so hard to keep satin shoes clean!

    1. Hi Jen! I’m right there with you. And that’s such an astute point re: context and toddlers. How can they possibly wrap their minds around why using a phone is OK in certain circumstances and not in other ones?! It’s a really tricky dance. And I also find myself thinking sometimes — “Ugh, am I making a fight out of everything?!” I remember my mom telling me to say “yes” as I often as I could so that when I said “no,” she’d know I’d meant it. I’m trying to think through what REALLY matters these days. I always thought I’d be one of those gung-ho moms — “Dress ’em up and let ’em play” — but it’s taken some adjustments to the level of mess and chaos a toddler is capable of and I still find myself cringing as she’s plunging her feet into a puddle or smearing (washable!) paint all over her clothes. Deep breaths…

      Anyway, my point is that I’ve had so many of these same thoughts and emotions. I’m right there with you. Figuring it out as I go…


  4. Such good points on ‘can’ vs. ‘should’ — I love the quote that Anna shares in the comments, too.

    Good to know about the Little People house … I have some 2-y-o birthdays coming up and have gotten some excellent gift ideas from you in the past!

    Those Margaux sandals! I just repaired a similar-ish pair by a small French designer (think K. Jacques style) but would happily buy these if I needed them. Love!

    1. I know — Anna’s quote will be with me for a long while.

      Little People — so good!!! Strongly recommend. I’m giving sets to everyone for their second birthdays this year 🙂


  5. i once read a silly quip about how we need “to stop should-ing all over ourselves” and it always stuck with me.

    and janet lansbury was super helpful for me around 2!

  6. Great thoughts. Similarly, a former minister at my church used to encourage people to “want what you have, do what you can, and be who you are.” I think some folks might hear that as inherently limiting, but I don’t think that taking a moment to appreciate your current station in life is incompatible with wanting to be better. Growth is strongest and most enduring when built on a foundation of gratitude for where you’ve come from.

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